You have likely heard or read the phrase regardless of how frequently you hike, kayak, or camp in the NC Triad.
You might have even read the 7 Leave No Trace Principles (LNT) from the nonprofit organization of the same name that are promoted nationwide by the National Park Service. But to what extent does everyone enjoying the outdoors understand how we are impacting an area?
In my experience leading trips for various organizations domestic and international, I often find that awareness of LNT is not the issue – it’s more about effort and convenience. In short, people are going to do what they want and do not want to feel inconvenienced. This can reach a dangerous point, however, potentially stressing and destroying beloved areas and forcing them to close to recoup for years. We’ve seen this recently with the popular Max Patch in the Hot Springs, N.C., area that is now closed until 2026.
Don’t get me wrong, as an outdoor educator I love that more people are spending more time outside. The natural world is much better than a computer screen. It increases serotonin levels, the long-term happiness chemical for your brain, as opposed to dopamine, the short-term happiness. The outdoors also allows minds to critically think, and problem solve, a skill that is often cited as lacking in young adults and college-age students.
But, as more people venture outdoors, there is need for collective willpower and understanding that following LNT means recreational areas and amenities can remain open for businesses and continue to provide a healthy outdoor environment. We are not just preserving lands and waters – important endeavors on their own – but we are also preserving the environments we as people need to engage with and heal.